Book Title: Nick Hawthorne and the Banefires of Autumn (Albion Chronicles Book One)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 434 (Paperback); 419 (E-Book)
Author: Craig Booker
Date Published: 1st July 2014
In Albion, it is almost the time of the Conjunction, and the witch Nightshade is seeking to unleash a millennia of evil forces upon the land.
Only a small handful of folk, headed up by Sir Benedict Harkness and his brother, the enigmatic The Eyes of the Wind, are aware of her plan, and set about trying to locate the Charm, an amulet with the power to awaken the Lady Gray, the only person with this power to stop Nightshade.
Fifteen-year-old Nick Hawthorne is plunged into this maelstrom of alien malevolence when he finds the talisman near his home. Against his will, but terrified of Nightshade's familiar, the Ilnure, which has been dispatched to England to secure the Charm.
Nick is whisked off to Albion by Sir Benedict via a Magickal 'Gate'. There, he and his companions must locate the Sleeping Hill, resting place of the Lady Gray. But there's a problem - no-one knows where it is, and they have just six weeks to find it!
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Nick Hawthorne and the Banefires of Autumn by Craig Booker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A friend of mine recommended this book to me, as she knew I loved Young Adult Fantasy. I'm glad she did, because I LOVED it!
Nick Hawthorne is a normal fifteen year old teen. I liked him a lot. He is full of himself, as teens tend to be and a bit angst-y. But when he becomes involved in a dangerous quest in a parallel world called Albion, Nick finds out that monsters are real and he's braver than he thought.
I started to read this book and was quickly hooked. The story is told from several points of view, although Nick is the main character. Sir Benedict Harkness is a fabulous character. He is a father figure to young Nick and takes him under his wing. Eyes of The Wind is Sir Benedict's brother, who is also known as The Rider, and is enigmatic and stoic, but incredibly brave. I liked this character too. I really liked Steel and Feydeau; they have completely different temperaments, but are fast friends. And they, along with Sir Benedict, Gwyn ap-Rhys (the Dodman) and Eyes of The Wind make up a team that strongly reminded me of the motley crew of J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of The Rings'. There are several other characters that have a cameo in the story, such as the hermit Crystaljack, and the foxy (literally) Bracken-le-Rose, not to mention Harlequin, but they all left an impression on me and had me wondering if I would see them again.
The character development is wonderful; I felt like I knew them all, even the scary and deadly witch, Nightshade - who doesn't make an appearance until late in the book - but whose presence is felt all the way throughout the story. The world development of Albion is wonderful too. The author gave it a medieval feeling to it, with it's horses, wagons and fire torches; I loved it! There is plenty of action, danger and adventure, which kept me turning the pages. However, I did find some of the words the author used (correctly I may add) an odd choice. I have an extensive vocabulary, but even I had to look up a couple of words that are actually old English in origin and are not widely in use today. But, in a way, these old words gave the story an authenticity and originality that is missing from today's fantasy novels.
The final showdown between Nick and Nightshade is a little anti-climatic (or so I felt) after a huge battle scene between Eyes of The Wind and the Ilnure (Nightshade's familiar), but it left me wanting to read the next book in the series as soon as possible to find out what happens next!
Craig Booker has written a fantastic debut young adult fantasy.The author blends English myths and legends, cultural history and fantasy in such a way, it sucks a reader in. I love his fast paced writing style, but found some of the story did not flow as well as it could have, due to abrupt changes, or slower flow, in scenes. There is one scene which seems to slow the story down a bit too much in my opinion; this scene is where Sir Benedict visits his home and he finds a magickal book. I understand the importance of this scene, but the slower pace it portrayed threw the story off it's pace. Other readers may not feel the same way, so I will leave it to them to decide for themselves. This is an author to watch, and I will follow his career with interest.
I highly recommend this book to teens aged 14 and above, and to adults who love reading YA Fantasy. - Lynn Worton
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